Level of anxiety and perception of dog stress in human mothers and non-mothers
Keywords:anxiety, children, dog, mother, stress, welfare
The aim of the current study was to assess whether and how the presence of a dog can influence the level of anxiety in mothers with a child and women without children. Moreover, the ability of female dog owners with or without children to recognize sign of stress and to assess the level of stress in their pet was evaluated. For these purposes, 58 mothers of a child (0-6 years old), owning a dog, 84 mothers of a child (0-6 years old) who did not own a dog, and 87 women with a dog but without children filled in two questionnaires. The first questionnaire was the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory Form Y (STAI-Y), consisting of 20 questions for the evaluation of the state anxiety and 20 for the trait anxiety. The second questionnaire was aimed at analysing owner’s perception of stress in their dog.
It was found that female dog owners without children showed a lower trait anxiety. Mothers perceived a lower stress level in their dogs, compared to owners without children. However, mothers resulted less able to identify the canine signs of stress and the potentially stressful situations for dogs and this could explain the previous result. This lack of communication between owners (in particular mothers) and dogs may lead to a condition of poor dog welfare and turn into canine aggression and dangerous behaviors towards family members, especially children.